Good evening, loyal readers! We're coming to you on our usual tape delay, this time from historic Rose Hill Gym on the campus of Fordham University in the Bronx. (Well, technically, as my fingers stroke the keys, we're coming to you from a surprising seat on a Bronx-bound 4 train somewhere under Harlem.) The Rams host the Dons of the University of San Francisco, and you know me, I can't resist a West Coast team.
You may see more acid than usual in these notes, and here's a digression as to why. Normally, I have no beef with transfers. The BEast is not for everyone. Nine times out of ten, I'll wish you well, track your stats at Texas Southern or Grambling or Hawai'I or wherever, maybe even catch your games when you're in town, and there's no bad blood. However, if you decide to renounce your eligibility in the middle of the season, thus causing a coach with respect for his seniors to shoehorn you into the starting lineup, then invoke the graduate transfer rule to play elsewhere in the same city, that's a different story. So Mary Nwachukwu, who was never my favorite Johnnie anyway, is not exactly one of my favorite people in the world right now. I recognize that my distaste for her is not exactly rational and beg the indulgence of GNoD readers.
Arrived around 6:40, after getting only a little lost. The MTA and I need to have a long talk as to the appropriate speed for express trains. The operative word here is "express", kids.
The game is on teevee, I think. Very cool. Arrived late, but have the strong sense that Fordham is being physical and San Francisco is not demonstrating great shot selection.
Jennifer Azzi needs to tell Alex Maseko and the Seton Hall staff where she got that blouse, because it is perfect Pirate blue.
Taylor Proctor's family is here in full regalia- team colored Mohawk, plastic cowbells, streamers, the whole nine yards. It is awesome.
It's a bit awkward wearing my SJU scarf when the USF men are playing St. John's, but I think I finessed it well enough.
Sorry, cute kids in front of me, I didn't mean to scare you. I liked cheering with you!
T-this b-b-bus is r-really bump-bumpy. Someone wanna put in some work on the Cross Bronx, guys?
Bryn Stark not only has an awesome name, she looked pretty fierce in her brief time. Not direwolf fierce, but she'll do. Aundrea Gordon couldn't buy a bucket, but I have to like a player who can take the "AIRBALL!" chant with the kind of aplomb she did. Hashima Carothers intrigues me as someone who looks like she can be a very good player, but who right now is very, very raw. She has the look of a player- the build, the grace, the tools- but she doesn't have defensive acumen and her footwork was even worse than her teammates' (which is an overarching complaint that will be addressed later). Claudia Price played 14 minutes and I can't remember her doing anything particularly good or particularly bad, ditto for the four minutes of Alexa Hardick.
Rachel Howard turned up the offense in the second half, and I think that if USF were my team, she'd be making me tear my hair out with her ability to score at one end and give up the points just as quickly at the other end. I do love the offense, though. Taylor Proctor has nice handles for a woman of her height, but her ball control on the boards left much to be desired. I admit, I kept mixing up her and Paige Spietz, because of unfamiliarity and similar profiles. Spietz was better on the boards, and probably got the best rebounding position of her team, but that's not saying a lot. Strictly on looks, Taj Winston reminded me of Brittney Griner, with similar cheekbones and the twisted short dreads. She really turned it up in the second half, driving to the lane (though she needs to hit more of those free throws) and working hard on defense. So did Zhané Dikes, who got most of the points I saw from her off hard work- steals, rebounds, free throws off contact in the lane.
I know they're young, and this is the first game of the season, and Fordham is not exactly an easy opponent to start off against, but I was surprised how soft San Francisco was. For the most part, they weren't absorbing a lot of contact (and the players who were were smaller guards, not the taller forwards). They backed off a lot on defense too; the defense was disorganized to the point where I couldn't tell whether it was a badly executed zone or a man-to-man where players didn't know their assignments. It's a bad sign when players are giving each other the "WTF are you doing here look". There seemed to be a lot of freelancing on offense, not a lot of concerted ball movement, and a surprising amount of bad footwork from a team coached by a legendary point guard. (That, at least, I expect to be corrected over months and years.)
Really liked what I saw out of Danielle Burns, especially in the second half. She exploited the gaps in USF's defense beautifully down low. Mary Nwachukwu was who she has always been: she wanders around in the high post, she takes elbow jumpers when she gets the opportunity, she boxes out, and she can't rebound for love nor money. Danielle Padovano made so much of an impression early in the game that when she came back near the end I thought it was her first stretch of run. Gaitley seemed to make a point of bringing her end-of-the-bench players in at the end of the game, and though I'm usually all in favor of it, her insistence smacked of mockery. Either that, or the refs really weren't paying attention to her requests.
I don't remember Emily Tapio doing anything until the end of the game, but I missed the first twelve minutes or so of game time, so I acknowledge that there is the distinct possibility that she was solid in the beginning of the game. Samantha Clark was tough in the paint, but seemed to lack stamina. That is a big, solid woman, but she might have to trade in some of that bulk for longevity- they need a rock in the middle, and she could definitely be it if they can rely on her for long stretches. Abigail Corning didn't seem capable of missing threes, especially from the corner. Neither was Hannah Missry, though she got in foul trouble in the second half and wasn't as effective after that. Erin Rooney seemed to choose her shots very carefully, and I thought it was interesting that her sweet spot seemed to be straight away, or very close to it. She also displayed quite a knack for the dramatic; when she was fouled, she made sure everyone in the building knew that she was going down.
I was not thrilled with the officiating. For all that there's an emphasis on not allowing as much contact, they let a lot of banging go in the paint, more concerned with the footwork. It looked like Fordham was getting away with more of it early, but the refs definitely slacked off a bit as the game went on. I'm pretty sure tackling should not allow you to acquire the ball in basketball.
There was a student tee giveaway. Plain, but serviceable.
I love Rose Hill. I tried to take exterior establishing shots, but I can't guarantee they came out properly. Well, there's always next week.